Many organizations working with Objectives and Key Results (OKR) consider using OKR software to manage their goals. A dedicated OKR tool can indeed facilitate your efforts of aligning teams and keeping track of their results. However, it is not necessarily a must-have for every OKR-practicing organization. An excel template or Google Sheet might sometimes be sufficient. Sometimes OKRs even lose some of their beneficial aspects with an OKR tool.

If you want to know more about the OKR framework, take a look at our article "Objectives and Key Results (OKR) - A Definition"

Reasons against an OKR tool

OKR Software overcomplicates a simple framework

OKRs are actually very simple, and rightfully so. The whole point is to motivate, inspire, and focus on goals, which is accomplished by keeping things simple. Goals should be clear and easy to understand by everyone to focus on them - if they are not, you might want to simplify them. This also counts for alignment and collaboration. Teams should have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and how they contribute towards company goals. Therefore, it should work with an Excel template and a Google sheet without the need to manage it with software.

Not Another Tool

Employees have a program for EMails, communication, daily tasks, project management, or tracking their time. Adding another tool for keeping track of their OKRs might be frustrating for your employees. If you use it your OKR rollout it could even put successful adoption at risk, as it depends on users to regularly use the OKR platform. Therefore, it should not feel like a burden to use it. What's more is that, again, OKRs are meant to be easy to understand by everyone, this is especially true for newly introducing them

OKR is not the Same as OKR

Objectives and Key Results is a framework, not a set of fixed rules and processes. There are various approaches and each company has to find its own way to leverage and adjust OKR to its specific needs. An OKR software might not be able to cover all the individual aspects of your practice, such as your meeting cadences, the length of your OKR cycle, or possible different definitions for annual or quarterly OKRs. Google, for example, developed an OKR software tailored to their own needs.

Reasons for an OKR Software

After all, the successful use of OKRs does not depend on whether or not you use OKR software but on the mindset. However, there are a number of good reasons and use cases for organizations to lift their OKR practice to a higher level.

OKR Software Offers Guidance for Scaling

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If your OKR practicing unit is a small group in a company of +1000 employees and your plan is to scale OKRs throughout the organization, you face challenges in communication, transparency, and collaboration. Suddenly, there are shared goals across various teams with different maturity levels. Some might be accustomed to regularly exchange about initiatives while others are struggling to look beyond their own silos or break out of old working routines. Therefore, synergies are slowed down and you face the risk of double work.

An OKR platform provides a central hub to visualize responsibilities and shared goals. This makes it easier for everyone to see the big picture and know how every team’s efforts contribute to shared goals. Documenting initiatives and progress on Key Results helps in avoiding double work and fosters collaboration. Additionally, notifications about Check-ins or other meetings help those new to OKRs to adopt the framework and focus their work.

Focus Work with Tool Integration

Integrating your tool landscape into OKR software is an effective way of making OKRs an integral part of your work routine. Integration with Jira, for example, allows you to link your operative tasks in Jira directly to your Key Results and, therefore, your strategic goals. Consequently, you can prioritize your Jira issues to your company strategy. It also gives you an idea of how your goal is progressing through your daily work. Keeping track of how much time users spend towards strategic goals versus how much time they spend on other topics highlights where your team is distracted from achieving their goals. Also, integrating your OKR platform into your communication platform like MS Teams makes your goals a part of day-to-day-work. Therefore, teams have them present in their daily work.

Added Value with Analytics

One of the reasons why OKRs are gaining popularity is that they allow focusing on measurable data for agile adjustments. It’s only fitting to also have an OKR software that provides insights into your OKR practice as well. Having your whole OKR process in a dedicated platform provides unique insights for OKR coaches and leadership. This is the basis to continuously improve, especially in complex organizational structures with a high (and maybe increasing) number of practitioners.During the drafting phase, advanced OKR platforms can check the quality of Key Results. If there are too many binary KPIs or milestones you might want to rework some of them. You can also check on alignment and the number and type of team Objectives contributing to the organizational Objectives.

In the execution phase, an OKR software assists in tracking progress during the OKR cycle and ensure focused work. This includes engagement level over the cycle, number of sessions, confidence level, and the Check-In behavior of your team. At the end of the cycle, you can compare past cycles in terms of user engagement, number of Check-Ins, and goal achievement.

Conclusion

A dedicated OKR software should not manage your existing practice. And under no circumstance should you introduce OKRs with a corresponding software that feels like just another burden. That doesn’t mean an OKR software is useless, though. If you are in the middle of transforming a large organization with an increasing number of OKR practitioners, software can make a lot of things easier. It provides you with the right insights and measurable data for ever-improving your OKR approach. It also gives you tangible results that demonstrate success to justify the efforts. After all, there are good reasons in favor of dedicated software. But it’s not about management but improvement. Because that’s what OKRs are all about.